Health

  • Transcendent Humans

    I guess what has changed—or so the writers here argue—is how we think about death now, and how conflicted the modern Western mind is when it reflects upon that inevitable day when we'll "shuffle off this mortal coil." Our current saturation with images of death for entertainment is perhaps unparalleled, yet I wonder if such a morbid fascination is simply a byproduct of our capacity, also unparalleled, to stave off the Stygian shore.

    Gearing up for Halloween, the National Post ran a spate of articles last week on "How We Die Now." Spoiler alert: we still stop breathing.

    I guess wha...

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  • Rasouli Case a Win for Patient Rights and Beliefs—And Cause for Concern

    The case dealt with the issue of consent to medical treatment and, in particular, whether or not doctors require consent from a patient's substitute decision maker to remove a patient—in this case, Hassan Rasouli—from life support when the doctor believes such support is futile. I acted as counsel to The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, one of the interveners in the case.

    Today, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Cuthbertson v. Raso...

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  • 3D Cities: Tower, Slum, and Sprawl

    John Bentley Mays wrote an article in the Globe and Mail in May that featured an interview with Antony Wood, the Executive Director of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat. According to the article, Mr. Wood suggested that there are really only three major options for the 200,000 or so people that arrive in cities around the world every day. These options are towers, sprawling suburbs, or informal developments (slums).

    [caption id="attachment_2283" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Looking North from the Hamilton GO Centre, early morning, 2012. Photo: Milton Friesen"]...

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  • Bowling with the Church

    Much has been made in the media and in research about income divides and the challenge of "bouncing back" from inheriting challenging conditions. Here I'll not look at upward mobility—ably discussed by Jamie Smith last week—but rather at another major factor in resilience.

    We all love the underdog. Hollywood has always been obsessed with comebacks, stories of resilience: people who come from a difficult situation and, against all odds, achieve what they set out to do. But, of course, the American Dream we see in The Longe...

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  • Holding Onto Memory

    Now, you might think mice have precious little to remember beyond how to spell C-A-T and whether Gouda or Emmenthal makes the best croque monsieur once the C-A-T has toddled off to bed. You would be mistaken. By rejigging the cellular structure of lab mice, researchers erased the rodents' rote learning about how to run in circles, all day, every day, on the little wheels in their cages. The purpose of the experiment, of course, was to deepen knowledge of the role cells play in sustaining or eroding memory.

    Scientists, my morning Daily Death Rattle tells me, have succeeded in making mice forget.

    Now, you might think mice have precious little to remember beyond how to spell C-A-T and whether Gouda or Emmenthal makes the best croque monsieur...

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  • Nurture

    From a training and educational standpoint, nurses are highly qualified to assess bodily system functions and use complex technology to monitor their patients. They monitor vital signs, check and replace IV lines, administer injections, make painstaking reports, and perform an overwhelming assortment of often unpleasant tasks not included in their job description. It is nurses who keep our hearts beating.

    My sister, Angela, recently spent 15 days in hospital. Needless to say, my family met many nurses over those weeks. In this time I've wondered about the distinction between duty and service. What is it that makes one nurse seem more compassionate and attune...

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  • Reflections from the Calgary Flood Plain

    In a sense, the flood barely affected me. My suburban neighbourhood is well clear of the evacuation zone and the only impact on our family involved briefly hosting a few friends in need and the cancellation of various planned events. We tried to be good citizens by conserving water and staying at home and out of the way of the rescue workers. Responding to the phone calls and emails from acquaintances around the world, concerned about our safety, felt strange. I was watching the same media reports as they were.

    Record flooding in Calgary has placed my hometown in the international spotlight. A state of emergency and the ...

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  • The Sound of Silence

    The CD sold out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    St. Peter's Church in East Sussex England sells a CD called The Sound of Silence, which is not (to my disappointment) a choral arrangement of the Simon and Garfunkel hit. The half hour recording is, literally, silence. There's no choral rendition of ...

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  • There's a life at the heart of the matter

    There's some irony in the passing away of Dr. Henry Morgentaler. Regrettably, Morgentaler, whose name will forever be connected with opening Canada up to abortion on demand, cannot be celebrated. Making abortion mainstream is something few can celebrate. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    Editor's Note: In yesterday's blog about bridging differences, Peter Stockland wrote, "we have the means to speak our particularities honestly, openly and authentically, shorn of e...

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  • "Secure Your Own Mask First"

    But recently I heard a rote part of the flight attendant's script as if for the first time. No doubt this will sound familiar: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    I spend a lot of time on airplanes. The rituals of flight have become second nature for me. When the cabin door closes, I shut down my phone, pick up my New Yorker, and tune out the drone of the crew as they enumerate all of the safety procedures we ...

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  • Contemplating "Realness"

    It is the rare being who can be fulfilled by the Descartian notion "I think, therefore I am".  Throughout time, we have chosen to see our image reflected via our possessions or our achievements. For my friend, her "realness" is inextricably linked to freedom. The freedom to live life on her own schedule, to walk without assistance, to make her own tea and toast.

    Her words have been on my mind since I saw her at breakfast. Seated on the verandah of her retirement home, in between sips of tea and nibbles of toast, she uttered a phrase that I had heard from her many times before: "I just want to be a real perso...

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  • Garden-Variety Work

    I raked the lawn out, fertilized it, cleared the remnant leaves from the flower beds, put up new netting for my beloved vines, fixed the fence next to the roses and made arrangements with the arborist to clean up the ash tree. One of the fences has to be replaced this summer and I need to speak with the neighbour about that. Before I head off to Montreal next weekend, I hope to mow the lawn. So it begins.

    Last weekend, finally, I began this summer's work in the garden. Winter has been long this year in Alberta—it began the third week in October and the most recent heavy snowfall of 20 cm or so was only two weeks ago.

    I raked the lawn out, fertilized i...

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  • A Quiet Battle in an Echo-ocracy

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently rescued from human traffickers. She was bought and sold into the sex trade for nine years. Now she is free. She needs food, clothing, shelter, medicine, counseling, and rehabilitation. We would also like to provide her, when she is ready, funds for education courses to help her restore her life.

    As Ottawa's echo-ocracy worked itself into stage five incoherence over a backbench MP's motion on sex-selection abortion, the following words quietly appeared on another MP's website:

    "Help is needed to support a young girl who was recently ...

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  • Green Shoots of Humanity

    But, death is an awful thing, even if the departed is a machismo thug whose policies hollowed out a , dismantled its , and left its poor with little long-term stability or resources. Jesus grieved; in fact, Jesus wept. He wept because he knew that death was not the way it was meant to be. To grieve over the loss of good and life is not only human; it is a reflection of God—even if the rest of your life does not reflect this.

    I have very little love for Hugo Chavez, and even less love for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's embattled president.

    But, death is an awful thing, even if the departed is a machismo thug whose policies hollowed out a

    ...

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  • 'He Has No Longer the Strength'

    Cardus: Ambassador Leahy, were you as shocked as the rest of the world seems to be by today's announcement of Pope Benedict XVI resigning, or were there signs you saw that the rest of missed? Cardus: What would Benedict's motivation have been for taking such an unusual step? We're told this hasn't happened for almost 600 years.

    [caption id="attachment_1789" align="alignright" width="199" caption="Ambassador Anne Leahy"] ...

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  • Many Textures of Beauty

    I spent the past week with my wife enjoying as near a "perfect" physical surrounding as I have experienced. Comfortable poolside chairs with an ocean view, surrounded by lush gardens, palm trees, and the invigorating Hawaii climate, freed (even mandated!) me to leave aside the regular worries of daily life—there are few scenarios that come as seem as close to perfect, at least in terms of human metrics.

    When surrounded by near-perfection, it is surprising how much can be learned from imperfection.

    I spent the past week with my wife enjoying as near a "perfect" physical surrounding as I have experienced. Comfortable poolside chairs with an ocean view...

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  • Broken Hearts Mend

    It was in the spring of 1999 when a reporter from the Calgary Herald, of which I was editor at the time, knocked on my door to inquire about my neighbours—the family that lived behind us across the green belt. It was then that I learned that the two young children who lived there, Brittany, 5, and Joshua, 3, had been killed at the family's condo in B.C.

    Almost 14 years have now passed since tragedy struck very close to my home.

    It was in the spring of 1999 when a reporter from the Calgary Herald, of which I was editor at the time, knocked on my door to inquire about my neighbours—the family t...

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  • Avoiding What's in Front of Us

    This is the one key question to be asked in the debates. Everything else is either an extension of, or distraction from, that central issue. The last hurdle to the legislation was yesterday's release of an "expert legal opinion" claiming that legalizing "medical aid to die" is within Quebec's constitutional jurisdiction and does not intrude on federal authority over criminal law prohibiting euthanasia and assisted suicide.

    If the acts of euthansia or assisted suicide required using a pillow instead of a pill, would you favour legalization?

    This is the one key question to be asked in the debates. Everything else is either an extension of, or distraction from, that centr...

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  • The Ordeal of Civility

    Last week a late night radio show host in Quebec informed a caller that it was fortunate she could remain anonymous, else she wouldn't have been able to call the Holocaust "the most beautiful thing that could happen in history." The host, Jacques Fabi, lamented that it was a pain not being able to say what one really believes, except of course in media that allow for anonymity. The caller's anonymity on the telephone seems to have taken a lesson from social media. There is no accountability when one can espouse beliefs behind screen names and telephone lines. It is now de rigueur to speak rudely, disrespectfully, thoughtlessly throughout the public square.

    Social media gave us anonymity, and it has opened the door to incivility throughout the public square.

    Last week a late night radio show host in Quebec ...

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  • Better Than Rubbernecking

    The Petraeus affair has provide ample salacious chum for a media shark feeding frenzy, now entering its spinning phase. Self-righteous finger wagging is easy. Self-reflective soul searching comes much harder. There are sobering lessons to be learned from this tragedy. We all have our weaknesses—acknowledged and unacknowledged—and not many would be so cavalier as to open them up to the front page of The New York Times.

    A high-profile sex scandal is better than a car wreck for rubbernecking.

    The Petraeus affair has provide ample salacious chum for a media shark feeding frenzy, now entering its spinning phase. Self-righteous finger wagging is easy. Self-reflective so...

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  • Reference Points

    His comment emphasized it was an important campaign. Dove was pushing back at our culture's obsession with size 2, 6-foot women, and validating women who don't fit that mold. Dove was, in some way, giving permission to women to love their bodies, no matter the size. The campaign was, I think, so well received because this message was a breath of fresh air in a stifling culture of unattainable, and often unhealthy, expectations.

    I was in high school the year Dove launched their Campaign for Real Beauty. I remember it because the launch week corresponded with a trip to Toronto for one of my classes. When we got off the subway, there in front of us was a billboard of five "real women...

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  • Marvel and Wonder in October

    It's unsettling to see people rummage through the blue boxes on your street in search of the discarded bottle which will give them ten or twenty more cents to add to their revenue stream. I recall one particular morning in October 2004. For some reason known only to God I was up at 4 a.m. and glanced outside to check the weather.

    You hear them coming every week; usually on a Sunday night, but often very, very early on Monday morning. They come rain or shine. And in the fall, when the whole world seems to be headed for some sort of cold and sodden dormancy, it rains a lot. And yet th...

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  • Small Talk

    The smoke-free posse burgles Santa's pipe; the Globe and Mail's Jeffrey Simpson busts a howler, and our editor-in-chief warns of bishops bursting their buttons.

    The National Post couldn't resist putting it on the front page. The editor of a new edition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas has edited out Santa's pipe and his head wreathed in smoke. It's the work of "smoking cessation advocate" Pamela McColl, who writ...

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  • The Curious Case of Canadian Democracy

    So bad has the disease become that Chantal Hebert says, "Today, I mostly wish I could look away." Her sparring partner, Andrew Coyne, doesn't have a much brighter outlook:

    Democracy in Canada is sick. Our legislatures are presenting strong symptoms including multiple prorogations, maniacal behaviour, repeated eructations of talking points in legislative houses, carbuncular omnibus bills, and gangrenous construction contracts ...

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